A “marketing campaign” tactic by Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network TV to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force went wildly wrong yesterday, shutting down the city as peoples’ fears in the post-9/11 world took hold.
The tactic involved almost 40 blinking signs placed in a wide variety of locations, including bridges and security-sensitive buildings. The signs were of a cartoon character and designed to promote a show. The signs were about one-foot tall and looked like a circuit board with wires sticking out, not too cool in this time of fear about terrorism.
The reaction of the people of Boston — and their elected officials — was to shut down the city as bomb squads were called in. People were furious over what happened as a result of the “marketing” tactic. Legal action is being pursued against the sponsors of this fiasco.
What can we learn from this? In my strategic communication planning class yesterday — even as events were unfolding in Boston –we were teaching that PR’s purpose is to build and maintain positive relationships with an organization’s publics. Marketing seeks to build an economic exchange between the organization and its consumers concerning products and/or services.
What happened in Boston?
- Is this really “marketing?”
- Is this a cheap publicity stunt that went terribly wrong, or a savvy, if drastic, way of promotion?
- What will be the lasting public relations impact on the organization that sponsored the sign tactic?